If you're considering cloth diapering for your little one, you've come to the right place. My name is Bailey Bouwman, and I'm the owner of Nest & Sprout. As a former cloth diaper blogger and podcaster, I've spent countless hours researching and testing different cloth diapering methods and products. I know that diapering can be overwhelming for beginners, which is why I've started with a good ol' fashion Cloth Diapering 101 post.
||Need even more information? My book - Cloth Diapers: The ultimate guide to textiles, washing and more is a great resource for learning about cloth diapers without having to rely on the internet screen. Pass it on to a friend, leave it in a library and enjoy it with friends.|
I've written an ultimate guide to cloth diapering for beginners. This post will cover the basics from different types of cloth diapers to materials and fabrics, washing routines, and sustainability. Just like everything there is layers of grey and nuance when it comes to cloth diapering. This post is for beginners, but it's not the holy grail of cloth diapering and just a starting point to help you make an informed decision about cloth diapering and feel confident in your ability to care for your baby in a sustainable and cost-effective way.
Types of Cloth Diapers
There are several types of cloth diapers available in Canada, and around the world, each with their own unique features and benefits. While the types of cloth diapers are generally consistent across brands - there is some variability. It's important to read product descriptions because sometimes people like to fill terms in for SEO instead of actual practicality. Here's a breakdown of the most popular types:
- Flat diapers: Flat diapers are single-layered and can be folded in various ways to fit your baby. They are also secured with a diaper cover. This is the OG Diaper.
- Prefolds: Prefold diapers are made of multiple layers of cotton or bamboo and are designed to be folded and secured with a diaper cover. This is the OG diaper levelled up. You typically see these in diaper services. They are a fantastic basic.
- Fitteds: Fitted diapers are shaped to fit your baby and have elastic around the legs and waist for a snug fit. They require a diaper cover.
- All-in-Ones (AIOs): AIOs are a convenient option that includes both the absorbent layer and waterproof layer in one diaper. These two pieces are sewn together - minimal assembly needed.
- Pocket diapers: Pocket diapers have a waterproof outer layer and a pocket for an absorbent insert. A popular pocket diaper is this one from Kinder Cloth Diaper Co.
- Covers: Diaper covers are used with prefold, flat, or fitted diapers to provide a waterproof layer.
- Wool: Wool diaper covers are a natural and breathable option for covering absorbent cloth diapers like flats, prefolds or fitted diapers. This is just a variation of a cover, but made with a different textile and generally treated differently. We carry Lunapaca wool diapers!
- Hybrid diapers: Hybrid diapers have a reusable waterproof cover and disposable or reusable inserts.
You might also hear the term All In Two Diaper - this is sometimes a cloth diaper cover with snap in inserts, or sometimes a pocket diaper with snap in inserts.
Cloth Diaper Materials and Fabrics
When it comes to cloth diapering, the material and fabric options are endless! Seriously. From synthetics to natural materials, almost every textile is used in cloth diapering.
There are natural materials such as cotton and hemp, and synthetic materials like microfiber, bamboo and fleece. Each material has its own unique absorbency level and care instructions. It's important to choose the right fabric for your baby's needs to ensure a comfortable and leak-free fit. It's also important to consider your sustainability goals when thinking about textiles. Some textiles offer more longevity or low-waste impacts.
Cotton is a popular choice due to its softness and breathability. It's also easy to care for and can withstand frequent washing. Bamboo is another great option as it is highly absorbent and naturally anti-bacterial, making it perfect for sensitive skin. Hemp is known for its durability and is an excellent choice for heavy wetters because it holds onto liquid like none other.
On the synthetic side, microfiber is a common choice for its high absorbency level and quick-drying properties. Microfiber is the bane of my existence, and while it's loved by many brands, it can be fickle. Fleece is often used as a stay-dry layer to wick away moisture from baby's skin, and cover microfibre to ensure that baby doesn't dry out. You see this in the Lil Helpers Diapering System.
Some cloth diaper makers also use specialty textiles like wool, which is naturally moisture-wicking and breathable, and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) which is a waterproof material used in diaper covers, pockets and AIO. TPU, or PUL, is one of the most common materials seen across almost all cloth diapers.
Cloth Diaper Accessories
Cloth diapering can be made even more convenient with the use of accessories. Here are some of the most popular cloth diaper accessories to consider:
- Diaper liners: These can be disposable or reusable and are placed on top of the diaper to help with cleanup. Disposable liners are often advertised as flushable, but really should be tossed in the bin for the safety of your pipe. Reusable liners are often made of fleece or wool, sometimes silk or AWJ.
- Diaper sprayers: This accessory is a sprayer that attaches to your toilet to help rinse off any solid waste from the diaper, there are speciality products but it's also just a twist on a bidet.. This is an especially helpful accessory for families with babies on solids. Additional gadgets like the Diaper Dawg or Spray Pal shield can make using a sprayer easier.
- Wet bags: These are reusable bags that can be used to store dirty diapers while on-the-go. They come in different sizes and materials and can be washed along with the diapers - and fantastic for so may uses including storing reusable nursing pads, swimsuits, and other wet things you need to keep separate in your diaper bag.
- Cloth wipes: Cloth wipes are a more eco-friendly option that is gentle on baby's skin and your wallet. They can be made of materials like cotton, bamboo, or hemp, and are usually washable and reusable.
- Additional inserts: Some cloth diapers come with inserts, but if you need more absorbency, you can purchase additional inserts separately. Inserts can be made of a variety of materials like cotton, hemp, bamboo, or microfiber. The most common booster or insert sold is a hemp blend for helping last nap time or bedtime.
How to Wash Cloth Diapers for Beginners
Proper washing and drying routines are crucial for keeping cloth diapers clean and fresh. It's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for care, and troubleshoot any issues you may encounter along the way - but most parents can start with a relatively simple routine that uses their favourite household detergent.
The most important thing with detergent is choosing one free of fabric softeners and avoiding dryer sheets.
Here is a simple routine that can work for most types of cloth diapers:
- Remove solids: Before washing, remove any solid waste from the diaper and dispose of it in the toilet. You can use a diaper sprayer, a liner, or dunk and swish method to remove the waste.
- Pre-rinse: Rinse the diapers in cold water to remove any remaining residue or debris.
- Wash: Run a hot water wash cycle with a small amount of detergent, following the manufacturer's instructions. Avoid using fabric softeners or bleach, as they can damage the diapers and reduce their absorbency.
- Rinse: Run an additional rinse cycle with cold water to remove any detergent residue.
- Dry: Hang or lay the diapers flat to dry. Avoid using a high heat dryer, as it can damage the diapers and reduce their lifespan.
It's important to note that the washing routine may need to be adjusted based on your specific diapers, water type, and washing machine. Cotton diapers wash up differently than microfibre, and depending on your water may influence different needs. We generally find synthetic detergent works best for synthetic diapers. If you want to use natural detergents, stick to natural fibre diapers.
If you notice any issues with the cleanliness or absorbency of your diapers, you may need to troubleshoot and adjust the routine accordingly.
Cloth Diapering on a Budget
Here are some budget-friendly options for cloth diapering:
Secondhand options: Consider buying gently used cloth diapers from online marketplaces like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist. These can be a fraction of the cost of new ones.
DIY options: If you're handy with a sewing machine, you can make your own cloth diapers using patterns and tutorials available online. This is a great way to save money and have complete control over the fabrics and materials used.
Cloth diaper banks and lending programs: Many communities have programs that offer free or low-cost cloth diapers to families in need. Check with your local community centers or parenting groups to see if there are any programs available in your area.
By utilizing these options, cloth diapering can be an affordable choice for families looking to save money and reduce waste.
Cloth Diapering and Sustainability
We all want to make choices that are better for our planet and future generations, and cloth diapering is a great way to make an impact as a consumer.
At Nest & Sprout, we believe in the importance of sustainability and are committed to providing eco-friendly options for parents. That's why we offer a wide selection of cloth diapers made from natural and sustainable materials like cotton, wool and hemp.
We've also written a couple of blog posts that dive deeper into the environmental impact of disposable diapers and the benefits of cloth diapering. We encourage you to check them out:
"Manufacturing Disposable Diapers: What You Need to Know" explores the environmental impact of producing disposable diapers and the harmful chemicals they can contain.
"Cloth Diapering and Sustainability: How You Can Make a Difference" outlines the many benefits of cloth diapering for the environment, including reducing waste in landfills and promoting the use of sustainable materials.
Tips and Tricks for Cloth Diapering Success
Cloth diapering is not always easy - but that's the joy of becoming a parent. From one parent to you, here are some tips and tricks to help you succeed:
- Start with a small stash: It's tempting to buy a lot of diapers at once, but starting with a small stash allows you to figure out what works best for you and your baby before investing in a larger collection.
Bonus: visit us at Pine Centre Mall to see for yourself before you buy.
- Have a good wash routine: Proper washing and drying routines are essential for keeping cloth diapers clean and fresh. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and troubleshoot any issues you may encounter along the way - different manufacturers have different guidelines, but that doesn't mean they all need to be washed differently. Choose one philosophy and start there.
- Join a cloth diapering community: Connecting with other cloth diapering parents can provide support and helpful tips. Join online groups or attend local meetups to build your network.
- Experiment with different types of diapers: There are several types of cloth diapers available, and each has its own pros and cons. Experimenting with different types can help you find the ones that work best for your baby and your lifestyle. You might be surprised to discover the diapers the internet hates are the ones you love - we've seen that happen with flat diapers over the year.
- Keep a wet bag handy: Wet bags are a convenient way to store dirty diapers when you're out and about. They come in various sizes, so you can choose one that works for your needs.
- Consider using cloth wipes: Cloth wipes are a cost-effective and eco-friendly option for cleaning your baby during diaper changes. They can be washed along with your cloth diapers, and used for years to come!
Start Your Eco-Friendly Cloth Diapering Journey Today!
Join our email list to access our comprehensive cloth diapering guide and get tips and tricks on how to make it a success. This simple guide expands on this article with diagrams and terminology that will be great to have on hand.
Additionally, you can purchase my book on cloth diapering for more detailed information. With the right tools and information, you can make a positive impact on the environment and provide a comfortable and healthy diapering experience for your baby.